London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2
Of the Former Street-Sellers, "Finders," Stealers, and Restorers of Dogs.
BEFORE I describe the present condition of the street-trade in dogs, which is principally in spaniels, or in the description well known as lapdogs, I will give an account of the former condition of the trade, if trade it can properly be called, for the "finders" and "stealers" of dogs were the more especial subjects of a parliamentary inquiry, from which I derive the official information on the matter. The Report of the Committee was ordered by the to be printed, .
In their Report the Committee observe, concerning the value of pet dogs:—"From the evidence of various witnesses it appears, that in case a spaniel was sold for , and in another, under a sheriff's execution, for at the hammer; and or are not unfrequently given for fancy dogs of -rate breed and beauty." The guineas' dog above alluded to was a "black and tan King Charles's spaniel;"—indeed, Mr. Dowling, the editor of , said, in his evidence before the Committee, "I have known as much as given for a dog." He said afterwards: "There are certain marks about the eyes and otherwise, which are considered 'properties;' and it depends entirely upon the property which a dog possesses as to its value."
I need not dwell on the general fondness of the English for dogs, otherwise than as regards what were the grand objects of the dog-finders' search —ladies' small spaniels and lap-dogs, or, as they are sometimes called, "carriage-dogs," by their being the companions of ladies inside their carriages. These animals became fashionable by the fondness of Charles II. for them. That monarch allowed them undisturbed possession of the gilded chairs in his palace of , and seldom took his accustomed walk in the park without a tribe of them at his heels. So "fashionable" were spaniels at that time and afterwards, that in Pope made the chief of all his sylphs and sylphides the guard of a lady's lapdog. The fashion has long continued, and still continues; and it was on this fashionable fondness for a toy, and on the regard of many others for the noble and affectionate qualities of the dog, that a traffic was established in London, which became so extensive and so lucrative, that the legislature interfered, in , for the purpose of checking it.
I cannot better show the extent and lucrativeness of this trade, than by citing a list which of the witnesses before Parliament, Mr. W. Bishop, a. gunmaker, delivered in to the Committee, of "cases in which money had recently been extorted from the owners of dogs by dogstealers and their confederates." There is no explanation of the space of time included under the vague term "recently;" but the return shows that ladies and gentlemen had been the victims of the dog-stealers or dog-finders, for in this business the words were, and still are to a degree, synonymes, and of these had been so victimized in and in the months of , from January to July. The total amount shown by Mr. Bishop to have been paid for the restoration of stolen dogs was , or an average of per individual practised upon. This large sum, it is stated on the authority of the Committee, was only that which came within Mr. Bishop's knowledge, and formed, perhaps, "but a part in amount" of the whole extortion. Mr. Bishop was himself in the habit of doing business "in obtaining the restitution of dogs," and had once known —the dog-stealers asked —given for the restitution of a spaniel. The full amount realized by this dog-stealing was, according to the above proportion, In , was so realized, and in the months of , within Mr. Bishop's personal knowledge; and if this be likewise a of the whole of the commerce in this line, a year's business, it appears, averaged to the stealers or finders of dogs. I select a few names from the list of those robbed of dogs, either from the amount paid, or because the names are well known. The payment cited is from a public board, who owned a dog in their corporate capacity:
Thus these ladies and gentlemen paid to rescue their dogs from professional dog-stealers, or an average, per individual, of upwards of
These dog appropriators, as they found that they could levy contributions not only on royalty, foreign ambassadors, peers, courtiers, and ladies of rank, but on public bodies, and on the dignitaries of the state, the law, the army, and the church, became bolder and more expert in their avocations —a boldness which was encouraged by the existing law. Prior to the parliamentary inquiry, dogstealing was not an indictable offence. To show this, Mr. Commissioner Mayne quoted Blackstone to the Committee: "As to those animals which do not serve for food, and which therefore the law holds to have no intrinsic value, as dogs of all sorts, and other creatures kept for whim and pleasure—though a man may have a base property therein, and maintain a civil action for the loss of them, yet they are not of such estimation as that the crime of stealing them amounts to larceny." The only mode of punishment for dog-stealing was by summary conviction, the penalty being fine or imprisonment; but Mr. Commissioner Mayne did not know of any instance of a dog-stealer being sent to prison in default of payment. Although the law recognised no property in a dog, the animal was taxed; and it was complained at the time that an unhappy lady might have to pay tax for the full term upon her dog, perhaps a year and a half after he had been stolen from her. old offender, who stole the Duke of Beaufort's dog, was transported, not for stealing the dog, but his collar.
The difficulty of proving the positive theft of a dog was extreme. In most cases, where the man was not seen actually to seize a dog which could be identified, he escaped when carried before a magistrate. "The dog-stealers," said Inspector Shackell, "generally go together; they have a piece of liver; they say it is merely bullock's liver, which will entice or tame the wildest or savagest dog which there can be in any yard; they give it him, and take him from his chain. At other times," continues Mr. Shackell, "they will go in the street with a little dog, rubbed over with some sort of stuff, and will entice valuable dogs away. . . . . If there is a dog lost or stolen, it is generally known within or hours where that dog is, and they know almost exactly what they can get for it, so that it is a regular system of plunder." Mr. G. White, "dealer in live stock, dogs, and other animals," and at time a "dealer in lions, and tigers, and all sorts of things," said of the dog-stealers: "In turning the corners of streets there are or of them together; will snatch up a dog and put into his apron, and the others will stop the lady and say, 'What is the matter?' and direct the party who has lost the dog in a contrary direction to that taken."
In this business were engaged from to men, half of them actual stealers of the animals. The others were the receivers, and the go-betweens or "restorers." The thief kept the dog perhaps for a day or at some publichouse, and he then took it to a dog-dealer with whom he was connected in the way of business. These dealers carried on a trade in "honest dogs," as of the witnesses styled them (meaning dogs honestly acquired), but some of them dealt principally with the dog-stealers. Their depots could not be entered by the police, being private premises, without a search-warrant—and direct evidence was necessary to obtain a searchwarrant—and of course a stranger in quest of a stolen dog would not be admitted. Some of the dog-dealers would not purchase or receive dogs known to have been stolen, but others bought and speculated in them. If an advertisement appeared offering a reward for the dog, a negotiation was entered into. If no reward was offered, the owner of the dog, who was always either known or made out, was waited upon by a restorer, who undertook "to restore the dog if terms could be come to." A dog belonging to Colonel Fox was once kept weeks before the thieves would consent to the Colonel's terms. of the most successful restorers was a shoemaker, and mixed little with the actual stealers; the dogdealers, however, acted as restorers frequently enough. If the person robbed paid a good round sum for the restoration of a dog, and paid it speedily, the animal was almost certain to be stolen a time, and a higher sum was then demanded. Sometimes the thieves threatened that if they were any longer trifled with they would inflict torture on the dog, or cut its throat. lady, Miss Brown of , was so worried by these threats, and by having twice to redeem her dog, "that she has left England," said Mr. Bishop, "and I really do believe for the sake of keeping the dog." It does not appear, as far as the evidence shows, that these threats of torture or death were ever carried into execution;
|some of the witnesses had merely heard of such things.|
The shoemaker alluded to was named Taylor, and Inspector Shackell thus describes this person's way of transacting business in the dog "restoring" line: "There is a man named Taylor, who is of the greatest restorers in London of stolen dogs, through Mr. Bishop." [Mr. Bishop was a gunmaker in .] "It is a disgrace to London that any person should encourage a man like that to go to extort money from ladies and gentlemen, especially a respectable man. A gentleman applied to me to get a valuable dog that was stolen, with a chain on his neck, and the name on the collar; and I heard Mr. Bishop himself say that it cost ; that it could not be got for less. Capt. Vansittart (the owner of the dog) came out; I asked him particularly, 'Will you give me a description of the dog on a piece of paper,' and that is his writing (producing a paper). I went and made inquiry; and the captain himself, who lives in , said he had no objection to give for the recovery of the dog, but would not give the I went and took a good deal of trouble about it. I found out that Taylor went to ascertain what the owner of the dog would give for it, and then went and offered for the dog, then , and at last purchased it for ; and went and told Capt. Vansittart that he had given for the dog; and the dog went back through the hands of Mr. Bishop."
The "restorers" had, it appears, the lion's share in the profits of this business. witness had known of as much as guineas being given for the recovery of a favourite spaniel, or, as the witness styled it, for "working a dog back," and only of these guineas being received by "the party." The wronged individual, thus delicately intimated as the "party," was the thief. The same witness, Mr. Hobdell, knew given for the restoration of a little red Scotch terrier, which he, as a dog-dealer, valued at !
of the coolest instances of the organization and boldness of the dog-stealers was in the case of Mr. Fitzroy Kelly's "favourite Scotch terrier." The "parties," possessing it through theft, asked for it, and urged that it was a reasonable offer, considering the trouble they were obliged to take. "The dog-stealers were obliged to watch every night," they contended, through Mr. Bishop, "and very diligently; Mr. Kelly kept them out very late from their homes, before they could get the dog; he used to go out to dinner or down to the Temple, and take the dog with him; they had a deal of trouble before they could get it." So Mr. Kelly was expected not only to pay more than the value of his dog, but an extra amount on account of the care he had taken of his terrier, and for the trouble his vigilance had given to the thieves! The matter was settled at Mr. Kelly's case was but instance.
Among the most successful of the practitioners in this street-finding business were Messrs. "Ginger" and "Carrots," but a parliamentary witness was inclined to believe that Ginger and Carrots were nicknames for the same individual, Barrett; although he had been in custody several times, he was considered "a very superior dog-stealer."
If the stolen dog were of little value, it was safest for the stealers to turn him loose; if he were of value, and unowned and unsought for, there was a ready market abroad. The stewards, stokers, or seamen of the Ostend, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburgh, and all the French steamers, readily bought stolen fancy dogs; sometimes to were taken at a voyage. A steward, indeed, has given for a stolen spaniel as a private speculation. Dealers, too, came occasionally from Paris, and bought numbers of these animals, and at what the dog foragers considered fair prices. of the witnesses (Mr. Baker, a game dealer in Leadenhall-market) said:—"I have seen perhaps or dogs tied up in a little room, and I should suppose every of them was stolen; a reward not sufficiently high being offered for their restoration, the parties get more money by taking them on board the different steam-ships and selling them to persons on board, or to people coming to this country to buy dogs and take them abroad."
The following statement, derived from Mr. Mayne's evidence, shows the extent of the dogstealing business, but only as far as came under the cognizance of the police. It shows the number of dogs "lost" or "stolen," and of persons "charged" with the offence, and "convicted" or "discharged." Nearly all the dogs returned as lost, I may observe, were stolen, but there was no evidence to show the positive theft:—
In what proportion the police-known thefts stood to the whole number, there was no evidence given; nor, I suppose, could it be given.
The dog-stealers were not considered to be connected with housebreakers, though they might frequent the same public-houses. Mr. Mayne pronounced these dog-stealers a genus, a peculiar class, "what they call dog-fanciers and dogstealers; a sort of half-sporting, betting characters."
The law on the subject of dog-stealing ( and Vict., c. ) now is, that "If any person shall steal any dog, every such offender shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and, being convicted thereof before any or more justices of the peace, shall, for the offence, at the discretion of the said justices, either be committed to the common gaol or house of correction, there to be imprisoned only, or be imprisoned and kept to hard labour, for any term not exceeding calendar months, or shall forfeit and pay over and above the value of the said dog such sum of money, not exceeding , as to the said justices shall seem meet. And if any person so convicted shall
|afterwards be guilty of the same offence, every such offender shall be guilty of an indictable misdemeanor, and, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to suffer such punishment, by fine or imprisonment, with or without hard labour, or by both, as the court in its discretion shall award, provided such imprisonment do not exceed eighteen months."|